Worst case scenario: Charlie Batch throws four touchdowns and the Steelers put up 500 yards of offense on the hated Baltimore Ravens to improve to 4-0 in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger.
Yes, I'm going back and forth on this one. If the Steelers win, that'll be great for them. If they lose, well, that just might not be the worst thing for them and their returning quarterback.
Heading into this month-long Roethlisberger hiatus, .500 was being thrown about as a workable start. It was believed by many that if the Steelers could stay afloat until Roethlisberger returns, they would be in shape to make a legitimate run at a division title and maybe even better.
Go 3-1 and that would be even better, the pundits said. Go 4-0, and the Steelers are on their way to the Super Bowl.
As Hines Ward said it a few days ago: "The league doesn't want us to be 4-0 with a mad Ben coming back."
Yeah, that's probably what the league's thinking, but what do you suppose Roethlisberger might be thinking if he comes to back to a 4-0 team?
Publicly: Happy as heck with a big smile on his face.
Deep down inside: Do I really need more pressure?
Coming back to a 4-0 team will put more pressure on a guy who's already going to have the weight of the city and the scrutiny of the country squarely on his back.
Think about it for a second: Everything Roethlisberger does will be analyzed under a high-powered microscope.
* The running game has been surprisingly effective without Roethlisberger. He comes back and it struggles, it's Ben's fault.
* The offensive line has been protecting the quarterback fairly well for Dennis Dixon and Batch. He comes back and gets sacked times, and it's Ben's fault.
* Bruce Arians has called some pretty balanced games without him. He comes back and it goes back to a 60/40 pass/run ratio and their offense struggles, and it's Ben's fault. Well, B.A. will probably get blamed, too.
* The defense doesn't play well due to being on the field longer because the offense throws too much, and, yep, it's Ben's fault.
Just what he needed.
This isn't even taking in to account the scrutiny he'll be under with the things outside of football and the burning desire and pressure he will most definitely put on himself to redeem himself to his teammates. There are fans, too, who are waiting to jump his case whether he plays well or not.
I know it sounds crazy, and I'm trying to convince myself, too, but a 4-0 start just not might be in the best interest of the Steelers moving forward.
For this team to make the playoffs and put another Super Bowl run together, Roethlisberger is going to have to be more than good. He's going to have to be great, which I truly think he can be.
But 4-0 when he returns means he's going to have to be perfect, and that may just be too much to ask, even of a great quarterback like Roethlisberger.